Seattle looks to tap parking stall goldmine in private garages

Seattle hopes to relieve some of the parking crunch with a new proposal to allow residential building owners to charge non residents to park in their private garages. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - Hunting down a parking spot on the street may not be the only option for drivers if city leaders allow private garages to rent out stalls to the public.

“This opens up a new market for parking in your community in a building that might be just across the street from where you live,” said Bryan Stevens with the department of Construction and Inspections, the city agency behind the new proposal.

Currently, owners of apartment buildings and condominiums must limit parking garage access to their tenants. The idea behind new draft legislation is that for garages where not all the stalls are taken, the owners could open up their doors to the general public. That could serve to both ease the street-parking crunch and make the building owners a little money in the process.

While garage space can be at a premium in many of Seattle's busiest neighbors, a recent survey found that 35 percent of all parking stalls sit empty in residential buildings.

KOMO News asked tenants how they'd feel about sharing those spaces with people who don't live in their buildings.

“I don't see it as a bad thing,” said Baker Nicholaou, who lives in an apartment building in South Lake Union. “Obviously I'd want to have some sort of check on the person, some sort of background check similar to how you have a background check to be part of this apartment building."

The program would be voluntary, but the city sees it as a win for drivers who could stop circling the block as well as a payday for residential building owners who could turn unused parking spots into cash.

“The parking is very miserable here in Seattle, so they can leverage the parking stalls,” said Kavwess Wadswa, another South Lake Union apartment dweller.

Planners would also give Metro more leeway on bus arrival times by clarifying the definition of frequent transit service. The change could help developers build new housing without the added costs of onsite parking.

The draft legislation is up for public review through October 5. It then gets forwarded to the city council with a final vote possible sometime in December.

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